If you’re lucky this time of the year you might be able to find – tucked away in the farthest corner of the clearance section – a greeting card that actually mentions a few words about the true meaning of Easter. But don’t hold your breath. Cadbury Eggs and Peeps are all fun and games until someone loses the real meaning of Easter. If Good Friday ismarginalized, Easter Sunday trivialized. What is Easter? A man-on-the-street style interview would probably reveal the following answers: spring, new life, Easter egg hunts and fairy tales. It’s more convenient to see Jesus as a liar or a lunatic than Lord who died on a Friday and walked out of his grave on Sunday. Look no further than Dan Brown’s historical fiction (emphasis on the fiction) or any number of so-called documentaries (and I use that term loosely) on the History Channel. The major networks always air something with like, “Jesus’ Resurrection: Fact or Fiction?”
“So what,” you ask? “What’s the big deal? Let the critics believe what they want; everyone’s entitled to their opinion.” However, Saint Peter reminds us that we are “Always to be prepared to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is within you” (1 Peter 3:15). Christianity can withstand the scrutiny of skeptics. In fact, Saint Paul invites skeptics and cynics to examine the claims that Jesus makes. “If there is no resurrection from the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:13-14).
The Christian faith – unlike other religions – is falsifiable. Christianity hinges upon the factual, historical event of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Questions themselves shouldn’t pose a problem to Christians. However, shoddy scholarship and poor arguments should cause concern. When the critic makes conclusions a priori – without examining any historical evidence – he has already made up his mind and dismissed the evidence before assessment. This takes many forms, but perhaps they maintain that only naturalistic explanations to events are allowed and that miracles are therefore dismissed out of hand without examining any historical evidence for Jesus’ resurrection; such was the case for David Hume. Too many critics of Christianity make the very same mistake they accuse Christians of making: blind faith, circular reasoning and wishful thinking. The evidence in favor of Christianity, however, is overwhelming and widely available, if that is, the critic is open-minded enough to investigate the facts.
Still, many question the veracity of Christianity’s claim to the miraculous. C.S. Lewis’ legendary book, Miracles, debunks David Hume’s classic argument against miracles. There is no finer work on miracles. According to Lewis, Hume’s argument is nothing more than circular reasoning. Essentially, Hume’s argument goes as follows:
Uniform experience has established the laws of nature.
Therefore, there is a uniform experience against every miraculous event because there is no account of a dead man rising to life in any time/era.
Apologist Craig Parton observes that, “A resurrection may not have occurred since that day in first-century Palestine, but the fact that it has not been repeated has no bearing in whether it in fact took place in history. A resurrection is a historical claim and it must be investigated inductively and not dismissed on the basis of a thoroughly discredited method of philosophical reasoning based on the arrogance that one knows what is ‘reasonable’ without checking the evidence” (Craig Parton, The Defense Never Rests, CPH 2003, p. 88).
There are two other critical issues involved in defending Jesus’ resurrection from the dead in a historical manner. One is the issue of the missing body and the empty tomb. Frank Morrison, an attorney, began to write a book refuting Christianity’s truth claims and was converted after his investigation of the historical facts surrounding Jesus’ resurrection. His concise, yet useful book, Who Moved the Stone? documents his investigation. Similarly, Lee Strobel has written several helpful books on apologetics using his journalistic background, i.e. The Case for Christ and The Case for the Real Jesus, among others.
The other issue is the Gospel accounts themselves. If there is a claim that Jesus rose from the dead, would it not be a good idea to examine the body of evidence that makes such a claim? This is what apologists call the internal evidence. Is it coherent with itself? Does it contradict itself? What are the claims and so forth? In the Gospels we find that everything Jesus says and does hinges upon His death and resurrection (He makes the claim four times in Mark 8-10 alone). We also find in the Gospels, as in many of the epistles, that the writers are also eye witnesses of the events that they document in their writings. In fact, the New Testament, and the Gospels are the best and most reliable manuscripts available in all of antiquity. Christians need not worry about the reliability of the Scriptures but can rejoice in their historical veracity even as we also rejoice all the more in the hope and comfort of the Gospel found within (Romans 15:4). For more on the New Testament books, check out the classic work by F.F. Bruce, “The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?”
Christian apologists arduously defend the Christian faith. But giving a reason for the hope that is within you is not only the job of apologists or pastors; it’s for every Christian. Therefore, sink your teeth into the rich meat of God’s Word; surround yourself with good resources for the time when you are given an opportunity to speak the truth in love. A well-reasoned defense begins with a seasoned study of God’s Word. And the understanding, knowledge and trust in God’s Word is a fruit of faith, which founded on fact.